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Senate Set To Approve Satellite Bill Letting Providers Carry Local TV

New federal legislation that gives satellite services the right to carry local TV stations to eligible viewers is expected to pass a Senate vote this week. The president is also expected to sign the measure.

A revised satellite home viewers act was overwhelmingly approved by the House last week but was threatened with a filibuster from Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas) when it came up for a Senate vote. Gramm, who is chairman of the Senate banking committee, was outraged over an eleventh-hour inclusion of a $1.25 billion federal loan guarantee for the development of systems to help rural consumers receive local network signals via satellite.

However, the loan provision was later stripped from the legislation, presumably clearing the way for Senate approval this week.

Gramm said he had jurisdictional issues with the proposed loan, but is reportedly willing to hold a hearing on the loan provision as a separate item next year.

Among the provisions in the measure, satellite companies will have the right to carry broadcaster’s signals and later seek re-transmission consent under terms favorable to both parties. Satellite providers avoid must-carry requirements that are now imposed on cable companies, but they will be required to eventually carry all the broadcasts in any local market they choose to serve.

Anticipating the measure’s passage, DirecTv is prepared to offer its first local TV signals as soon as President Clinton signs it into law.

DirecTv president Eddy Hartenstein told analysts that his company will immediately offer the service to the New York and Los Angeles markets using standard DirecTv receivers. Other markets will be phased in thereafter.